What to Do When Your House Floods: 9 Critical Steps to Take

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 18, 2024

Whether it’s the result of a plumbing failure or torrential downpours, a flooded home can be overwhelming. You need to mitigate the damage and minimize your losses as quickly as possible.

Do you know what to do when your house floods?

As Chicago’s leading water damage restoration company, we’re here to help. 

Read on for nine critical steps that get you on the road to recovery after a property-wide flood event.

9 Steps to Take When Your Entire House is Flooded

  1. Be Ready to Relocate
  2. Shut Down Electricity and Gas
  3. Contact Your Homeowners Insurance Carrier
  4. Call Water Damage Restoration Professionals
  5. Put Personal Safety First
  6. Confirm Each Room’s Safety
  7. Address the Plumbing Failure
  8. Document the Water Damage and Losses
  9. Leave Everything in Place

1. Be Ready to Relocate

Don’t plan on trying to stay in the house for at least several days. Broken pipe flooding creates hazards throughout the property, including compromised electrical systems and hidden structural damage.

Storm flooding contaminates every room with Category 3 black water and often spreads dangerous sewage backup.

Contact family or friends, and make arrangements to stay with them until you get the flooded house situation under control. If you decided to say at a hotel, keep the receipts. 

Your homeowners insurance policy may reimburse you for the expenses.

2. Shut Down Electricity and Gas

If the house is still flooded, turn off your home’s electricity at the main breaker box. 

If the water has receded, you still need to shut down the power. Otherwise, electricity and residual water create a dangerous environment for you and anyone else who needs access to the property.

If you can’t reach the main cutoff breaker without standing on a damp surface, call a licensed electrician. 

Power Tip: Once the utilities are turned off, don’t try to turn them back on. Protect yourself and the house by having the systems inspected by licensed professionals first.

3. Contact Your Homeowners Insurance Carrier

Contact the agency that carries your homeowners insurance. Give them as much information as you can about your flooded house. 

Most homeowners policies cover water damage resulting from plumbing breakdowns, but very few cover plumbing repairs. However, water-damaged interiors and belongings should be covered.

Ask your agent to schedule an on-site evaluation by the company’s adjuster as soon as possible.

Be aware that property flooding resulting from natural events, such as storms or snowmelts, are only covered by insurance purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. 

Flood insurance must be purchased at least 30 days before an event impacts the property.

4. Call Water Damage Restoration Professionals

Very few property owners are prepared to clean a flooded house. The project requires heavy equipment and specialized training. 

Call an experienced restoration company in your area, and arrange for an on-site damage assessment.

For example, when you call us here at ServiceMaster by Zaba in Chicago, we respond within 90 minutes. We handle everything, from secure property board-up and water damage mitigation to structural drying and mold remediation.

Power Tip: Our teams also help you process the paperwork required for filing your water damage insurance claim.

5. Put Personal Safety First 

If you’re like most homeowners, you want to take a look at what the flooding left behind. 

It’s a natural reaction to an unusual situation, but be aware of the hazards we’ve mentioned. Suit up in protective clothing before reentering your flooded home.

Follow these CDC guidelines for PPE gear.

  • Heavy gloves
  • Disposable coveralls
  • Non-slip work boots
  • Wrap-around goggles
  • Head-mounted lamp

6. Confirm Each Room’s Safety

As you inspect the overall water damage, be careful walking through the house.

The flooring may be broken or covered with debris that you can’t see under the floodwater. Inspect walls and ceilings in each room. Stay on the lookout for signs of structural problems. Stay clear of crumbling drywall, buckled ceilings and damaged lights and fans overhead.

If you have any doubts about entering a room, play it safe. Leave a final inspection to the insurance adjuster and your restoration team. If you do feel comfortable enough to move about, proceed to the next step.

7. Address the Plumbing Failure

It’s impossible to stop storm floodwaters from flowing through the house, but you may be able to stop the damage from a plumbing breakdown. Try to locate and repair the broken line or ruptured pipe.

Don’t attempt this step unless you’re sure the water main and electricity supply are both turned off.

Keep in mind that the work will probably be a temporary fix. Most plumbing failures that flood a home need the attention of a licensed plumber. 

Broken pipes behind walls and overhead in ceilings are especially hard to repair.

8. Document the Water Damage and Losses

When the insurance adjuster makes his or her scheduled inspection, every detail counts. Make sure your losses are documented by taking pictures of water-damaged interiors and belongings. 

Keep these digital records in one file for easy access.

Power Tip: Use this technique to organize estimates and receipts related to water damage repairs and cleanup. Simply take pictures of the paperwork and save the images in the same file as your photos.

9. Leave Everything in Place

Don’t throw away items that can’t be salvaged until after the adjuster’s assessment. Leave everything in place so that he or she sees the full extent of your losses. Once the adjuster’s inspection is complete, talk with our restoration pros about salvaging soaked belongings.

Our water-damage technicians can often clean and restore carpets, area rugs, furniture and personal items. We can salvage electronics and appliances, as well as business equipment and inventory.

We also offer climate-controlled storage options here at our Chicago facilities. Everything stays safe and secure while we finish cleaning your flooded home and restoring the house to its pre-loss condition.

5 Ways to Prevent Your Home From Flooding

checking sump pump

1. Know Your Flood Risks

The number of weather disasters increases every year all across the country.

While the chances of a storm sending floodwaters into your home may seem low, the results can be devastating. Stay weather aware, especially if you live in or near any of these flood zones.

2. Maintain Exterior Drainage

You can’t stop the onslaught of torrential rain or heavy snowmelts, but you can take steps that help prevent weather events from flooding your property.

  • Identify areas around the foundation that tend to pond after heavy rain.
  • Improve drainage by correcting the yard’s grade or installing French drains.
  • Keep gutters clog-free, and direct downspouts away from the foundation.
  • Make sure exterior basement door and window well drains are clear.
  • Have the roof inspected once a year and after severe weather events.

3. Check the Sump Pump

When a storm floods a home, water accumulates in the basement first, but plumbing problems can also flood the downstairs. A small pipe leak can suddenly rupture, quickly releasing hundreds of gallons of water.

Your sump pump prevents that water from filling the basement, but it needs to be in top operating condition.

Prevent basement flooding by regularly cleaning the pump’s drain guards and impeller filter. If the equipment is more than 10 years old, it’s time to install a new sump pump.

4. Keep Pipes Insulated

Don’t assume the insulation around pipes will last through another winter. Plumbing in the attic and exterior can quickly freeze, burst and flood your entire home.

Reduce the risk of whole-house flooding by checking pipe insulation once a year. If it appears packed or moldy, replace the old material with fiberglass insulation or foam pipe sleeves.

5. Inspect Plumbing and Appliances

Put plumbing inspections on your routine maintenance list. This simple strategy helps head off potential house flooding, and you often catch plumbing problems you can fix without calling a plumber.

Take a good look at appliance hose connections too, especially on the washing machine. Rusted hose couplings, worn seals and rusty fittings can cause supply line breaks that quickly flood your home.

Has Your House Flooded in Chicago, IL or the Suburbs? We Can Help!

Between unexpected plumbing breakdowns and increasingly severe weather, the number of Chicagoland homes damaged by flooding increases every year.

We hope you never have to deal with a flooded house, but we’re here for you 24/7 with emergency flooding services. Our teams restore homes flooded by weather events too.

Wherever you are in Chicago or the suburbs, our industry-certified cleanup and restoration services are just around the corner. 

Call ServiceMaster by Zaba for expert help and sincere customer care: 773-647-1985

Helpful Resources

How to Prevent Home Flooding

Living in a Flood Zone

National Flood Insurance Program

FEMA Disaster Declarations

Why do homes flood?

Weather is a common cause of residential flooding. Heavy rains or snowmelts can fill a home with water, and frozen burst pipes can also result in extensive flooding. Other plumbing failures that cause flooding include pipe breaks, clogged supply lines, clogged or backed-up drains and appliance breakdowns.

When is a flooded home dangerous?

A flooded house becomes dangerous when water levels impact the home’s electrical system. Flooding can weaken structural materials, leading to wall collapse and ceiling cave-ins. It also leads to wood rot and mold growth that compromise indoor air quality.

Does homeowners insurance cover whole-house flooding?

If the house flooding is caused by a plumbing problem, cleanup and repairs should be covered by homeowners insurance. However, typical policies don’t cover damages from storm flooding. This type of insurance is available through FEMA. Your insurance agent can help you with the details.